I am most proud of the work I do at camp when I see it shape someone’s life after they go home. I have served with many former camp staffers who went on to be ordained in the church.There are others I shared time with who work for important NGOs; or as social workers, mental health counselors, doctors and nurses. So many of these individuals spend every day of their week caring for the poor, the sick, the neglected, the abused, and the marginalized. I watched the seeds of some of those callings planted when we worked together at camp. I have witnessed what that blessing is like personally for nearly 30 years.
One memory that sticks out to me is of a fall when I returned to the University of Tennessee after serving on a camp summer staff. As I walked into my college dorm, I found myself much more outgoing--talking in a very welcoming, friendly way to strangers. It felt like a privilege to get to speak to fellow campus dwellers this way. Previously, I would have been more reserved, keeping to myself. It would have felt awkward, and, believe me, it would have looked awkward too! It felt like that weight was lifted; and, it was because I had honed a confidence in being hospitable while at camp. I was able to make those people in the lobby of my dorm, those getting me my new mailbox key, the random strangers passing by all feel that being near me in this spot was safe and accepting. I had learned to do that for everyone I met during the summer.
Not too long later, I went through the Knoxville phone book, going down the list of United Methodist Churches, blind calling and letting them know I had experience working with children and youth and I would love the chance to help out with their youth groups if they had a need. I showed up on a Sunday to Cokesbury United Methodist and at the end of the service, I spoke to the pastor who relayed me to the youth leader. That evening was my first day helping with their youth group, which I did until I graduated.